Plot: What’s it about?
Haunted Mansion was a pleasant surprise. It can be hard not to miss Eddie Murphy, but hey, that version has been made and here we are. We can’t always expect much from films based on a Disney ride, but this one brings a lot of fun to the proceedings. This is in large part due to the talented and committed cast as well as nicely done special effects. It all makes for a pleasant night out at the movies.
We meet Gabbie (Rosario Dawson) and her son, Travis (Chase W. Dillon) who have just moved into an inherited mansion. The trouble is that the mansion is plagued with ghosts and evil spirits (I hate when that happens). Gabbie enlists the help of a paranormal tour guide, Ben (LaKeith Stanfield) who is coping with loss. Additional help arrives in the form of a priest named Kent (Owen Wilson) and a historian named Bruce (Danny DeVito). They’re all trying to understand just what is going on with the mansion and our villain is the Hatbox Ghost (Jared Leto) with motives of his own. Jamie Lee Curtis also has a small part here as she arrives in a crystal ball. The effects are well done, and the frights are earned as well as some good laughs. I appreciated that it doesn’t go overboard with the humor, but with Owen Wilson here, it’s hard not to maintain a grin on your face. The (mostly) singular setting provides a lot of opportunity for some good frights as the narrow hallways and loud noises keep us (and the characters) on edge. It all builds to an inevitably loud climax including frantic actions that must be made. Some of it is familiar, but it helps when we care about the characters and I did.
Color me surprised as I had a lot of fun with this film. Eddie Murphy is great, but I feel this to be the superior version. Thankfully, it comes with an appropriate PG-13 rating, and had the right number of frights and laughs. There’s even an emotional draw here as two of the central characters are coping with loss and learn how to deal with it. As often the case with a lot of modern films, this one does run a bit long. With maybe 10-15 minutes nixed, the results would’ve been a bit more effective, but it’s hard to deny the good time this film offers.
Video: How’s it look?
It’s natural to assume that a movie centered around a haunted mansion (get it?) would be on the darker side. And you’d be correct. Once again Disney satisfies with a flawless AVC 2.39:1 transfer. The image is never less than pleasing to the eyes, and features amazing detail throughout. There are plenty of darker scenes in the film, but they’re as equally sharp as the day scenes. The effects in the film are well done and the image duplicates that nicely as well. All in all, fans should have little trouble loving this transfer.
Audio: How’s it sound?
Not surprisingly, we get a DTS HD Master Audio 7.1 track here that’s also quite robust and quite pleasing. The film does have quieter moments, but more often than not, there’s always something to keep this track active. There’s are several sequences that make good use of all the channels and really helps replicate the atmosphere of the film. Vocals are equally as strong. Like the transfer, fans should have no issues with this track.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- Making Haunted Mansion – The obligatory “Making of…” is chock full of what we’d expect – some behind the scenes footage as well as some interviews with the cast and crew.
- 999 Happy Haunts – If the title sounds familiar, it’s because this pays homage to the “original.”
- Deleted Scenes – Ten minutes’ worth, but I assure you – these were wisely cut.
The Bottom Line
This isn’t the first time Disney has made a film out of one of their rides. I’m sure they were hoping for another Pirates of the Caribbean, but sadly it didn’t really happen. It’s actually a pretty fun ride, though (the film, not the actual ride) if you let it. The disc is spot on perfect with reference-quality audio and video. Fans might want to pick this up.